Monday, November 20, 2017

Drafty (hah) Excerpt

Usually, I am un-prone, in writing this blog - or, more often, composing it, compiling links and commenting just briefly - to excerpting my own work. But, as it cools down (and as I remind myself I *am* an author, at all), this little moment caught me and dragged me backward ... to my work ... to the way the end of summer feels ... to characters who still keep me curious.

To summer in Ravanna, in the wee hours of the sixth century.


Zeniv was too hot.

The heat was so that even the touch of clothing was importunate, every sensation a molestation; odd dreams plagued and would not release her—temptations of floating in water, or hanging weightless in the open vacuum of the sky, without so much as slippers nor linens, naked as the day of her birth. Lying with the wind, moving, moving.

The swamp, the whole city, smelt of the still greenness of water, and every shimmering, muggy breath of summer seemed almost a swallow; the atmosphere touchable, rather than empty air.

And she dreamt of empty air. Her mind swirled constantly with ineffable thoughts of somehow reaching a state of touching nothing. No ground to carry her, no clothes to enclose her, no heat—no heat—no heat.

The city roiled as it cooked, Arians and Catholics finding fault in the Jews for poor weather, for dwindling stores, for slackening winds and slowing trade.

Why it should be the Jews’ fault was unclear to Zeniv; made no clearer in the conversations around her. She was privy to much of religion; but little of politics. And Christians' concern with Jews, that must be politics, or perhaps the religion percolating around her was distilled somehow. Not thick and mixed, like the water—the air—all around.

Took the water, though, to mix up the atmosphere, to roil, to topple the carefully distilled beaker that was the Court.

Deep in the morning before the longest day of summer, the loss of a ship, down with which the fortunes of a dozen Ostrogoths’ families sank.


I have to write the pogrom. One of the first pogroms in Christian history. It's been lurking at me for the longest time.

It touches me like a dank, smelly, humid miasma.


Jeff said...

You hardly need me to tell you this, but: damn right you're an author. That is beautifully written.

If I'm being a jerk and looking for something to critique, I'd recommend getting rid of most of those semicolons and replacing them with commas (or some other form of punctuation, or nothing) to perfect the languid feel of the whole excerpt. But this is good writing. Because I know a little bit about you through your blog, I'm aware that this scene is the result of a great deal of thought, research, and work, but it feels almost effortless. It also feels almost like a self-contained piece of flash fiction, except for that last line, which propels the story forward....

DLM said...

My gracious, Jeff - thank you so much.

Reading this, which was a brain-dump on the way to once again aborting the writing which must come next, it actually felt to me just as you say, like a little island.

Had a little fun, given the enclosed-ness of the passage, the heat and stultification - and the fact that the writing evoking all that is so DRAFTy. :)